Our present anxieties and changed life shed a fresh light on the second set of tablets which God re-wrote after Moses had destroyed the first ones. The verbal instructions we read in Exodus 34:18-26 are a ‘user manual’ or serve as footnotes to the Ten Commandments. Before the outbreak of the corona virus we read these verses almost in a neutral way. Who would be interested in details of life and rituals pertaining to an agricultural society?
Yet, the description of feasts, pictures of rural life, harvest time, autumn works – are precious snapshots of life itself. These scenes are attached to worship, sacrifice; life with God. We are reminded by the divine revelation how precious our banal life is. These ‘verbal instructions’ to the Tablet want to highlight that life, shared with God, is never banal. It is always Sacred. Our ordinary life is always something to be cherished, valuated, and constantly revaluated, and thus elevated to this level.
Our dramatically changed life, perhaps, will teach us to read the whole of this chapter, positively. The prohibition of mixing with ‘those outside the covenant’, on one level, sounds harsh. Yet, in view of our presently endangered life, this can be heard as a call to appreciate life with God itself.
‘Write down these words for yourself; for on the basis of these words I have established a covenant with you and with Israel.’ (v.27) These verbal instructions are like ‘positive S.O.S. signals’ sent to our shipwrecked world. Cherish life! Fight for its banalities, appreciate them, and preserve them. When life is shared, that is lived with God, all what is lost at the present can be restored.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..